Here is the third and final chapter of this fic. Obviously I still don't own Leverage... though I continue to dream.
Nate opened his eyes slowly. Within a second it all came rushing back. His father's death, finding out that it was Dubenich that was responsible, his subsequent guilt that he hadn't planned for it. He should have known, should have figured that Dubenich wouldn't have let it go. Hell, the man had told him so himself, when they'd first taken him down. He'd ignored the warning, still on a high from finally giving rein to the part of him that had always wanted to be the black king instead of the white knight. Part of the high had also come from the camaraderie he'd felt despite his assurances that the contrary was true. For two years he'd been pushing everyone away, because the one person he had wanted was buried in the ground.
He shook his head, his movement jostling Sophie, who was curled up into his side. She opened her eyes and blinked a couple times, then snuggled closer and closed them again, clearly indicating that she wasn't ready to get up yet. Nate had to smile a little despite his pain. More than once Sophie had told him that getting up before eight am was indecent unless there were extremely compelling reasons for doing so. When he'd asked what those reasons were she'd stated "Shoe sales, ravening hunger, and IYS insurance agents bent on capturing me. In that order."
After about five minutes Sophie opened one eye and looked up at him again. "You're keeping me awake thinking so loudly," she grumbled.
"Sorry." After a second he sighed and climbed out of bed, pulling on a pair of sleep pants. "I'm going to go downstairs. Get some more sleep if you can." She nodded and watched him through the open door until he disappeared down the spiral staircase.
When Sophie made her way down the stairs an hour later, freshly showered and smelling faintly of Nate's soap, she expected to find him going over his notes on Latimer and Dubenich. Instead, he was sitting at the table, his cell phone the only object in front of him. From the look on his face she could tell something was wrong. She slid into a chair beside him.
After a second he said "They're done. They sent him for cremation. I'm supposed to go there this morning and sign papers so they can do it." He dragged a hand through his curls. "He's already gone, dammit! Why is this so hard?"
Sophie didn't answer, just reached out and took his hand. After a few seconds he stood up and went back upstairs to shower.
When Nate came back downstairs, Sophie was sitting at the island in the kitchen. His keys were sitting on the island in front of her.
He caught her eyes, and in the next few seconds an entire conversation went through his mind. What he could say to make her stay here. What she would say to try to convince him otherwise. The arguments and anger that would have happened in this circumstance as few as two months ago. Instead, she just waited, eyes on her hands. After a second he reached out and nudged the keys towards her. She looked up at him, and for a second he thought he could see straight through to her soul. She picked up the keys and led the way out of the apartment.
"My name's Nate Ford. I um… have some paperwork to sign." The woman at reception didn't look at all surprised at Nate's nervousness.
"We've been expecting you Mr. Ford. I'm so sorry about your loss." She rested a hand on Nate's arm and Sophie swore her eyes went from brown to green, because that was what colour the whole world turned in that one instant. It wasn't the first time another woman had hit on Nate in her presence, but it was definitely the first time she'd felt this hot, clawing jealously. It didn't help that the woman in front of them was married, and having an affair to boot.
To his credit Nate didn't look affected in the slightest, murmuring thank you but clearly not interested. "I'll go get that paperwork," the woman said.
They sat down to wait. Nate was clearly ill at ease, fidgeting and shifting around in his chair. Sophie waited, and finally he said "This is all too familiar. It feels like Sam."
Sophie twined her fingers through his. "Do you want to talk about it?"
He shook his head, and then indicated the woman returning with the forms for him to sign. When all the paperwork was finished she asked if he was having his father put in a cemetery. Nate gave her the name and plot number where his mother was and she said they'd call when they'd finished putting Jimmy there.
It was midafternoon when Nate's phone rang again. He thanked the person on the other end of the line and hung up. Sophie had declared that there was no work being done today and then taken him to an exhibit at the Boston Museum. They'd wandered, room to room, occasionally talking but mostly just content to look at the art. She'd pointed out a fake sculpture to him; he'd indicated a couple of flaws in the security system that would have made Parker itch to exploit them if she'd known they were there. Strangely enough, though she still considered herself a thief, Sophie didn't feel any driving need to steal any of the artworks (despite a rather stunning Van Gogh that she'd actually looked for in her earlier days). It was as if the stealing and the cons were now more a means to an end than the point itself, as she'd once believed.
"We should go there, Nate. Even if you only stay for five minutes." She looked over at him. They were in an outdoor café at the moment.
She could see the muscles in his cheek twitch, and then he nodded.
The first thing Nate noticed was the flowers. They were hard to miss, really; they were a combination of red and white roses, long stem, expensive looking. He could see them from the car when they drove up. As he got closer he revised his estimate to very expensive, since there were at least three dozen of the things. He looked over at Sophie, wondering if it was her doing. She shook her head in answer to his unspoken question.
When they got close enough to read the gravestone he got another shock. His father's name was already written there, the typeface the same as the one used for his mother. The date of birth and death were both there as well, and below it were the words Beloved Husband and Father. Nate crouched down and ran his fingers over the words, noting how sharp the edges felt in comparison to the matching epitaph on his mother's side of the gravestone. He stood up and stepped backwards… and almost knocked Parker over.
After a little shuffling they both managed to keep their feet. Eliot and Hardison were there too, standing next to Sophie. Both of them were in suits, and he could swear Eliot had gotten his hair trimmed.
"How did you guys…?" he asked, and then glanced at Sophie. She shook her head.
"Not guilty," she said, raising her hands in a warding gesture.
Nate turned his gaze back to the two guys. Eliot shrugged. "You didn't think we'd let you go through this all by yourself, did you? I mean, yeah, Soph asked us to give you guys some privacy at your place, but she didn't say we weren't allowed to be there for you if you ventured out. So here we are."
Nate turned his eyes to Hardison. "I hacked the M.E's office," Hardison said. "That told me when they moved the remains and where to. Then I tracked your phone. By the way, you guys wandered around a museum for four hours? Without stealing anything? Boring. So then when I knew you were coming here we came here too."
Nate looked at Parker last. She shrugged a little and stared at her shoes. "You're supposed to put flowers on people when they die. I remember that from my brother. Then I noticed they didn't put his name on there so I went and asked a guy real nice if he'd do it for me and he said sure. I even paid him real money and everything."
It took him two swallows before Nate could get his voice to work, and even then it was a little squeaky, like a metal hinge that had started to rust. "Thanks." He tried to say more but the words just wouldn't come out.
"One other thing Nate." Sophie exchanged a look with Hardison for a second and then reached into her purse. She handed Nate a usb stick. "I asked Hardison to hack the cell phone company. They record calls for a certain period of time on the server. This is… this is the audio from that call. I thought you might like to have it."
He wasn't sure why that act of kindness was the one that made him break down. All he knew was that one minute he was standing and the next he was sitting on the ground with his arms wrapped around his knees and crying like a baby into his arms. Of all people, Parker was the first one to sit down and wrap her arms around him, not saying anything, just hugging him so hard his ribs creaked. But seconds later the rest of the team were there too, telling him it was okay, that he wasn't alone and they wouldn't leave him and it was okay to cry. Sophie's eyes were against his shoulder and it occurred to him in some distant part of his brain that she must be crying too because his shirt was becoming increasingly wet in that spot.
When Nate finally looked up he thought maybe he was hallucinating, because standing in front of him was Father Paul. But when Eliot's eyes turned to the man Nate decided he must really be there.
"I'll go if you want me to Nate but…" Nate shook his head.
"You need to read from that or you know the words by heart?" Nate asked, pointing at the bible Paul held in his hands.
"I know them," Paul said. "Too well."
Nate nodded and stood up, pulling Soph up beside him. The rest of the team arrayed themselves behind him, Parker brushing grass off herself and attempting to look presentable. "The Lord is my Shepherd," Paul began.
"So when we going after Latimer?" Eliot asked the question, but all of the younger team members watched Nate for his response. A part of him wanted to hug them all for the 'when' in that statement, the foregone conclusion that Latimer had hurt Nate so they were going to hurt him back.
"Not yet. Give me… us, a few more days to work on it," he said. "If you can do surveillance without getting caught, do it, but stay safe."
Each of them nodded, and right before they went to climb into Eliot's car Nate pulled Parker aside and whispered something in her ear. Sophie, watching from near the driver's side of Nate's car, had a good idea what he'd said when Parker grinned. Two days later when that Van Gogh she'd been eyeing disappeared from the Boston Museum, her suspicions were confirmed. Guess Nate really was a thief after all.